In this detailed guide, we are going to walk you through all the different types of reusable grocery bags that are available in the market and which one we consider to be the best when it comes to reusability, washability, environmental impact, and versatility.
We will compare all the different types of reusable grocery bags across various different criteria to determine your best option.
So, let's get started.
What are reusable grocery bags?
Reusable grocery bags are exactly what they sound like; bags that you can reuse every time you go grocery shopping. These bags work to minimize the amount of single-use plastic bags that are commonly found in stores across the world.
The rise of reusable grocery bags shouldn’t come as a surprise. It wasn’t until the 1980s that single-use plastic bags became the norm. Nowadays reusable grocery bags are a simple way for consumers to start reducing their waste.
Reusable grocery bags are also compliant with environment-friendly legislations passed by various Counties and States to limit the usage of plastic bags.
Why should we avoid single-use bags?
Single-use plastic bags are quickly destroying the environment. Derived from fossil fuels, simply the production of these bags is harmful to the planet. These bags are often mistaken for food by birds, turtles, and fish. This transfers the plastic up the food chain to larger mammals, and can easily kill them, disrupting the entire ecosystem.
Plastic bags continue to pollute the planet long after they are used by people. Since plastic bags are synthetic, it can take up to 1,000 years for them to decompose. Instead, these bags break down into microplastics that continually pollute the environment.
In the United States alone, an average of 100 billion plastic bags are used each year. Creating this many bags requires 12 million barrels of oil, negatively impacting the planet. But, there is a simple solution to this problem.
What can we do to minimize this waste?
The simplest way to minimize this waste is to use reusable grocery bags. Rather than grabbing multiple plastic bags every time you go grocery shopping, opt for reusable bags that you can use time and time again. An easy solution to a complex problem.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing Reusable Grocery Bags
With so many reusable bags on the market, it can be overwhelming deciding what to get. Everyone’s grocery bag needs may be different, so here are a few factors to consider before you purchase your next bag:
Look at the longevity of a bag. Will it last 5 uses or 500? Kraft paper bags are great, but they may begin to break after a few uses. On the other hand, a cotton bag can last for years at a time. When deciding how much to spend on a bag, don’t forget to consider how long the item can be used. Spending a little more money on a bag that will last you decades is worth it.
Heavy Duty Reusable Grocery Bags
Whether you’re loading up your bag with cartons of ice cream or a plethora of vegetables, it needs to be durable. Some bags can only handle a small amount of groceries while others seem to have no limit. Natural fibers like cotton and jute hold up well to common wear and tear and are often easier to repair.
Washable Grocery Bags
Let’s be honest, groceries can be messy. Spilled milk or crushed bananas can happen, leaving your bags filthy. Picking a bag that can be washed helps cleanup become easier. When wet, a Kraft paper bag becomes useless. For washability opt for a bag made from natural or synthetic fibers such as cotton and nylon.
Foldable Reusable Grocery Bags
Ask yourself which bag feels the most convenient. Foldable and compactable grocery bags may be easier to store and carry around. Also, look for bags that fit your changing needs. Always carry a water bottle with you? Look for a bag that has a water bottle holder. Like to use your bag as a purse? Look for a bag that has a zipper compartment for your wallet and keys.
Versatility of Grocery Bags
Think about purchasing a bag that is versatile. Who says a grocery bag can’t also be used for heading to the beach or out on a picnic? The more versatile of a bag you have, the more likely you are to use it regularly.
Environmental Impact of Reusable Grocery Bags
Be sure to consider the environmental impact of the bag you are purchasing. While some synthetic materials may be lightweight and durable, they are also created by fossil fuels. Natural fibers have far less of an impact on the planet and if taken care of, can last for decades.
Bags made from natural fibers ensure your bag is biodegradable. Double-check to make sure these bags aren’t made with a blend of synthetic and natural fibers. Bags made with synthetic materials can last for hundreds of years, turning into microplastics and disrupting delicate ecosystems.
One way to minimize the environmental impact of a bag is to choose a bag that can be upcycled after its torn or used. For example, bags made from cotton can be used as cleaning rag in your kitchen or garage after they have torn.
Types of Reusable & Washable Grocery Bags Available
So you’re ready to start using a reusable bag, but may still be wondering where to begin. As reusable bags become more popular, more types of bags are coming onto the market. Let’s break down some of the most common types of bags:
Reusable Cotton Grocery Bags
When it comes to reusable grocery bags, cotton bags are the best and here is why.
In recent years, cotton tote bags have become far more popular. These durable bags are made from either virgin or repurposed cotton and can often withstand a heavy load of groceries. Cotton bags have also become popular for brand marketing, with many companies printing their logo on the side of them.
- Reusability: Cotton grocery bags are some of the most reusable bags on the market. When taken care of properly, and made well, these bags can last users decades. Different styles of cotton tote bags can serve different grocery needs.
- Durability: High-quality cotton bags are extremely durable. The cotton straps are often able to withstand heavy loads of groceries. The double stitching on the straps and around the base is common ensuring they can withstand common wear and tear.
- Washable: These bags can be washed by spot cleaning or in a washing machine. Hand-drying cotton bags can help extend their life. This is the only type of bag on the list that can be put in a standard washing machine.
- Convenience: Along with being durable and washable, cotton bags are foldable and so convenient to carry. These bags are lightweight and a few bags also have a zipper and various other compartments to easily organize your shopping list. This variety of bags may be more convenient for everyday use.
- Versatility: Cotton bags are extremely versatile. Tote-style bags are commonly used as a replacement for a purse. Those with zipper tops or pockets can also be used for picnics or days at the beach. There are other types of cotton bags including the ones made of mesh fabric which are stylish and extremely versatile.
- Environmental impact (biodegradable, upcycled): Organic cotton bags have a lower environmental impact than standard cotton. Because they are made of natural fibers, if the bags are disposed of properly, they can biodegrade when they are no longer usable. Some cotton bags are made from repurposed cotton material. Since many cotton bags have a logo printed on them, users should ensure it was printed with a natural dye in order to make them fully biodegradable.
Reusable Jute Grocery Bags
Like cotton bags, jute bags are made from biodegradable materials. Jute, a thicker version of burlap, can be cut into strips and woven into a sturdy reusable grocery bag. These bags are resistant to wear and tear, with some bags also being waterproof.
- Reusability: Jute bags can last users for a couple of years when taken care of properly. High-quality jute bags may be slightly more expensive than other materials, but they will be worth the investment based on how long they last.
- Durability: The natural fibers used to make jute bags are resistant to common wear and tear. The strong fibers allow the bags to hold a decent size load without the straps ripping. But you will need to be careful with a really heavy load as it is prone to easily tear.
- Washable: Jute bags are not machine washable, however, they can be spot washed with warm soap and water. The bags should be left to air dry after washing them in the sink. Warm soap and water are usually enough to get out a spill or stain.
- Convenience: Though jute bags are reusable and durable, they may not be the most convenient option. Bags of this material can’t compact down to a smaller size. Lack of zippers or smaller compartments makes them less convenient than a cotton bag.
- Versatility: The natural woven fiber used to make jute bags make them incredibly versatile. Jute bags are great for a picnic or day at the beach. The natural fibers allow sand to slip through and not get stuck in the bag. Plus, some jute bags are waterproof in case the ground is wet or it begins to rain.
- Environmental impact (biodegradable, upcycled): The environmental impact for a jute bag is relatively low. Made from natural fibers, the bags will biodegrade at the end of their life. Producing jute bags is not very resource-intensive, and they are often regarded as having the lowest impact of reusable bags on the market.
Nylon and Polyester Grocery Bags
Both nylon and polyester are synthetic materials commonly found in reusable grocery bags. Though these bags are often lightweight and compactable, their non-biodegradable material makes them difficult to dispose of. Nylon and polyester are also commonly found in clothes.
- Reusability: The reusability of a nylon or polyester bag depends heavily on the quality of each bag. Some styles can last for many years while cheaply made ones may begin to rip after a few uses, making them unsuitable for grocery shopping.
- Durability: Some nylon and polyester bags are extremely durable, while others may begin to rip after just a few uses. When buying a synthetic bag, users should opt for the highest quality they can afford. This style of bag often lacks a flat bottom, causing all of the groceries to fall on top of one another, resulting in the bag ripping more easily.
- Washable: These bags can be spot washed with warm water and soap but cannot be put into a washing machine. Getting a stain out of these bags can be difficult compared to a bag made from natural fibers. The sooner a stain is cleaned, the more likely it is to come out of nylon and polyester bags.
- Convenience: One of the major draws of these bags is how convenient they are. They often compact down to a small size allowing them to be thrown into a purse or even a pocket. Many of these bags don’t have multiple compartments to separate groceries.
- Versatility: Like other factors, the versatility of these bags relies on the overall quality of each bag. Most nylon and polyester bags are not extremely durable, making them less versatile for multiple uses. These bags may rip when brought to the beach or on a picnic walk.
- Environmental impact (biodegradable, upcycled): Nylon and polyester bags have a rather negative environmental impact. Synthetic material is derived directly from fossil fuels, which is less than ideal for a bag that is meant to help the environment. These bags are often made from virgin material, meaning it was produced merely to create the bag.
RPET Grocery Bags
RPET bags are made out of recycled plastic bag materials and so they are not perfect when it comes to environmental impact. These bags are often waterproof and help keep single-use plastic out of landfills. Many rPET bags also have a zipper at the top, making them more versatile.
- Reusability: RPET bags are some of the most reusable synthetic bags on the market. Made of higher quality material, these bags can last for many years when they are taken care of properly.
- Durability: These bags often mark the highest quality of synthetic bags. Reinforced straps and a wide flat bottom allow them to withstand heavy loads of groceries. These bags are built to last common wear and tear.
- Washable: RPET bags can be spot cleaned but not put into a washing machine. The fabric on the outside of the bag usually requires warm soap and water in order to remove a spill or stain. For insulated bags, the inside lining of the bag can be wiped down with a wet cloth.
- Convenience: Though durable, these bags often aren’t the most convenient to use. The bags may fold down into a smaller size but still usually can’t fit into a purse or pocket. The lack of multiple compartments also makes them less convenient to use than other types of bags.
- Versatility: The standard rPET bag isn't particularly versatile. However, insulated rPET bags are extremely versatile. The insulation and zipper top helps make them an ideal bag for going to the beach or picnic, helping keep items warm or cold.
- Environmental impact (biodegradable, upcycled): Made from recycled plastic water bottles, these bags have less of an environmental impact than virgin synthetic bags. While the impact is still greater than bags made from natural fibers, rPET bags help minimize plastic waste that has already been created. Buyers should double-check to ensure these bags aren’t made with virgin plastic water bottles.
Kraft Paper Grocery Bags
Kraft paper bags are commonly found in grocery stores, offering an alternative to single-use plastic bags. While these bags are less harmful to the environment, they can only be used a few times. Continual use often results in the bag ripping.
- Reusability: Kraft paper bags are not very reusable. These bags often only last for a few loads of groceries. The paper material can be reused as wrapping paper or for other crafting projects.
- Durability: Paper bags are not a durable option for grocery shopping. Since they are made of paper, the bags will rip when wet, essentially making them worthless. They are best used for dry boxed items.
- Washable: Kraft paper bags are not washable in any way. If the bag is spilled on it will most likely break past the point of repair.
- Convenience: Found at most grocery stores, paper bags are convenient to use if you forget to pack your other grocery bags. Because of their low durability, they are not convenient to use for purposes other than groceries.
- Versatility: The lack of durability makes these bags rather un-versatile. If the bags are still intact then can be used to store items or transport them from one destination to another. These bags would not hold up well if used for a picnic or day at the beach.
- Environmental impact (biodegradable, upcycled): Some paper bags are made from recycled paper, helping minimize their environmental impact. Though they are made from natural fibers, Kraft bags lack durability, meaning they can only be used a few times. A more sustainable option would be investing in a reusable bag that can last for decades.